Alone in the Quiet of Wilderness

Nature photographer Tea Karvinen spent over 700 days in all of Finland’s national parks over seven years. What this produced was peace of mind, thousands of nature photographs and a beautifully illustrated photo and reference book.

Tea Karvinen has tried all kinds of things in her life. She has travelled the world from Ecuadorian rain forests to African savannas and from Australian coral reefs to the Himalayan mountains. She has done skeletoning, skiing, diving and parachuting. However, her biggest passion has been nature and photography.

“I have great passion for life. I want to realise all my dreams, and experience as many fun and interesting things as possible. The freedom to roam is my starting point. I don’t want work to hinder my roaming. I have mainly done my trips alone and by myself from the beginning. Being successful has boosted my confidence.”

While photographing bears in Kuhmo one autumn night made her think about the rest of her life.

“I stayed two days in a small booth alone with my thoughts. Hidden away, while waiting for the bears, I started to think about what I should do with the rest of my life. I remembered what the famous nature photographer Tui De Roy once said to me: Specialise as a photographer if you want to stand out. I decided to specialise in the northern and arctic nature and culture.”

Karvinen’s photography trips have taken her to Alaska, northern Canada, Spitzbergen and Greenland, among other places.

“In the north, like in south-eastern Greenland, there are lots of unique, totally uninhabited places. In these places you are in complete quietness and peace and see no other people. Nowadays I am happy with the peace that the northern nature gives. I don’t miss doing exciting things.”

Tea Karvinen studied photo journalism in Alaska University in the 1990s. Her visual narrative conveys a strong worldview.

“With my nature photos and stories I want to tell people about the beauty of the world. I want to encourage people to explore the beauty around us. All you need to do to experience is, is to go to a nearby forest.”

A canoe trip in the Päijänne National Park.

More national parks than anywhere else in Europe

In 2010 Tea Karvinen decided to photograph all of Finland’s national parks at different seasons. There are 40 national parks in Finland. That’s more than anywhere else in Europe. There are as many of them in the European side of Russia. Next come Norway (36) and Sweden (29). The world’s overwhelming number one of national parks is Australia (685), which, of course, is vast. Finland’s national parks cover 10,000 square kilometres, and some of them are located at sea and in lake areas. Finland’s national parks are mainly inhabited and they protect the richest and most outstanding nature. The purpose of national parks is to preserve the so-called national landscape. Such landscapes can be seen at, for example, Pyhätunturi, Pallastunturi and Koli.

Tea Karvinen concluded the task seven years later in 2017. She spent over 700 days in Finland’s national parks. Nobody is known to have spent so long in so many Finnish national parks.

The outcome was a photography exhibition tour, slideshows and a photography book (The National Parks of Finland). In her book Karvinen introduces the national parks through hundreds of photographs, and interviews park workers, guides, hikers, fishermen and other people in similar lines of work. Each national park has its own story to tell. It is no surprise that the book is a success.

Karvinen’s photos portray nature as majestically rugged. Peace and quiet fill the mind. When she photographs people, they too are in harmony with nature. Reindeer herders rounding up reindeer in Pyhä-Luosto; gold panners at Lemme River. Canoes slip by calmly in the narrows of the Southern Konnevesi National Park. Tour skaters skating on the Linnansaari National Park ice and enjoying a sunny winter’s day and a white horizon. Vendace catchers fixing their nets on the shores of Suomunjärvi Lake in the Patvinsuo National Park. Mountain bikers on new marked cycle trails in the Hossa National Park. A hiker walking dogs on top of Riisitunturi. Someone hugging an old aspen with their eyes shut. All sorts of people who are connected by love for nature.

For Tea Karvinen, nature is a physical and spiritual place.

“Some peoples believe that there is life in places other those we are able to see. For me, the spirit world of nature exists. It has always been quite normal to me. The world and truth are more than what we see and hear, nature is heavily involved in this. Man cannot live separately from nature. Nature does not need man, but man needs nature.”

“I strongly believe in intuition that leads my life. It is a higher me that is in connection with higher powers. Man should listen to intuition that shows things in a bigger perspective. I am alone in nature’s quietude a lot of the time. It helps me find the right things and answers.”

Aspen forest in the South Konnevesi National Park.

Clean nature is not self-evident in the world

In Tea Karvinen’s photographs, Finland’s nature radiates purity. Finland’s surface waters are in excellent state and the air quality is one of the world’s cleanest. Finland is also one of the most forested countries in the world. However, clean nature is not self-evident everywhere in the world.

“There are many places in the world where you can’t breathe the air. A day in Delhi may equal to smoking two packs of cigarettes a day. The other non-evident issue is clean water. In many countries you don’t want to drink water in nature, or even from a tap. Clean air and water are great privileges that in Finland are basics. I wish that people could understand and appreciate it.”

Skiing in the Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park in April.

Tea Karvinen also considers the freedom to roam in nature unique. Everyman’s rights are recognised in Sweden and Norway in addition to Finland. Everyman’s right gives you the permission to roam in nature and enjoy its bounty regardless of who owns the area. To the extent permitted by law, you do not need permission from the land owner, and you can exercise the rights free of charge. These rights in the Nordic Countries originate from the 1500s. The roots go back to the gathering and hunting culture. The rights enabled people to carry on with their daily occupations and move from place to place.

“We can be grateful that we can roam freely in nature in Finland.”

Ari Turunen (13.1.2018), Uptopoint

The most National Parks per Country, TOP 20

“With my nature photos and stories I want to tell people about the beauty of the world. I want to encourage people to explore the beauty around us. All you need to do to experience is, is to go to a nearby forest.”


Tea Karvinen: The National Parks of Finland


Tea Karvinen’s photos of Finland’s national parks


Finland’s National Parks